After calling dozens of witnesses over the past month who detailed the government’s sweeping allegations against R. Kelly in lurid detail, the prosecutors at the R. Kelly sex trafficking trial ended their case Monday.
Several women and two men who were in Kelly’s celebrity orbit testified about how he was grooming them for unwanted sex and psychologically tormented them — mostly when they were teenagers — in episodes dating to the 1990s. Their accounts were backed at least in part by former Kelly employees whose own testimony suggested they were essentially paid off to look the other way or actively enable him.
The defense will now begin calling former Kelly employees in an effort to cast doubt on some of the accusers’ accounts, as the ASSOCIATED PRESS reports.
Kelly’s lawyers must find ways to counter testimony from accusers alleging an array of perverse misconduct spanning three decades. Among the troubling tableaus — his entourage locking a radio intern in a room where he sexually assaulted her while she was passed out; witnesses claiming that he gave them herpes without disclosing he had an STD; Kelly shooting a shaming video of one alleged victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking arbitrary rules meant to protect his fragile ego.
The jury had previously heard evidence about a fraud marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated Aaliyah. A marriage license that was put into evidence falsely listed her age as 18; he was 27 at the time.
Aaliyah, whose full name was Aaliyah Dana Haughton, worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.” She died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.
The last government witness was an expert witness on abusive relationships. Dawn Hughes testified about studies showing that many abusers systematically isolate, demean, subjugate and spy on their victims as means of control — all tactics allegedly used by Kelly. Generally speaking, it isn’t unusual for powerful people like Kelly to be surrounded by underlings who “knew about it and didn’t do anything,” Hughes said.
The 54-year-old defendant, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, has pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges accusing him of running a Chicago-based enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who helped him recruit and transport his victims. The travel violated the Mann Act, which makes it illegal to transport anyone across state lines “for any immoral purpose” — the same law that sent rock legend Chuck Berry to prison in 1959.
Kelly has vehemently denied the charges, claiming that the women were groupies who wanted to take advantage of his fame and fortune until the #MeToo movement turned them against him.